The third in John Ford's famous "Cavalry trilogy" turns out to be my favorite. Maybe not the BEST of 'em (that would be Fort Apache) but it has so much heart that I really liked the darn thing. It followed Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.
Lt. Colonel Kirby Yorke (John Wayne) is back from Fort Apache, and now he's on the Texas-Mexico border trying to stop renegade Indians from crossing back and forth but hamstrung by his commander, J. Carroll Naish, who won't let him cross the river in pursuit. Now, that's the plot, but nobody cares, because the 18 new recruits for the Fort include Kirby's son Jefferson, whom daddy hadn't seen in 15 years. Jeff's washed out of West Point and joined as a common soldier, and the reuniting isn't going very well, particularly when Mom, Maureen O'Hara, shows up to bring Jeff (who lied about his age) home.
Okay, so pretty much this is a family drama and a romance with a lot of interesting characters, and say, isn't it great when there're so many "minor" characters in a movie that are fascinating? The young recruits include a killer on the run and a guy named Daniel Boone, both of whom do some very fancy Roman riding (and they actually do it, too); Chill Wills as the chummy, overworked doctor; Victor McLaglen as the "Mick Sergeant"; lotsa action (LOTS!), plus those merry Sons of the Pioneers featuring Ken Curtis, singin' LOTS of songs. LOTS!
Yes, there are villains. The Apaches. Just so you know. They kidnap a bunch of kids that were being transported to safety, and the Cavalry has to rescue 'em. Other than Stagecoach, this may be the most exciting John Wayne film I've ever seen. The acting is wonderful, Wayne's good of course, O'Hara is terrific, turns in a great performance that matches his larger-than-life self, and even Naish is noticably good. This was filmed in Utah rather than Monument Valley, but hey, it was made for Republic, not RKO. (Republic had agreed to finance The Quiet Man if the director and cast made THIS one first, 'cause they thought they were gonna lose money on the second picture.) Terrific movie, and I didn't even mind all the singin'. By the way, I noticed in the credits that the jolly song "San Antone" (probably the best song in the movie) was written by good ol' Dale Evans!
The top-of-the-line releases for Olive continues with one of their best in this remarkable series, which unfortunately has become sporatic in the scheduling. If they're only going to release a handful of Signature titles a year, though, if they're all up to the quality of this and the recent Hair, I will not complain.
There are six featurettes on the making of the film, commentary by Nancy Schoenberger, who seems to be able to rattle off anything you'd want to know about the movie with hardly a second thought, and an essay and trailer, but the beauty of the Olive restoration of the film would be worth the price by itself: this is one of the best looking B&W films I've seen on Blu-ray, simply gorgeous. Highest recommendation.